|HT: 5-9 | WT: 195 | AGE: 21 | YR: Junior
By Bill Curry
Special to ESPN.com
David Allen and Bobby Newcombe are forces of nature, bona-fide difference-makers who can decide a national championship with the suddenness of a summer storm. So how does one choose which will prevail in a team matchup of large significance?
Here is one way: Even though there are disparities in the numbers that work to the advantage of each (Allen's huge punt return yards came in '98, Newcombe's in '99), and they play different positions (Allen is a running back, Newcombe a quarterback-turned receiver), there is a way to contrast which player brings the most to his huddle this Saturday. It is called mystique, and Allen has it.
Mystique is that magical, indefinable quality that converts into "hidden yardage." Coaches infect their teams with the virus of mystique without realizing it. "Men, remember, this guy is the only player in college football history to return three punts for touchdowns in three consecutive games, is the Big 12 all-time leader with five punt return touchdowns, and had 172 punt return yards in one game, against Texas last year." All true, all empirical data, all pertinent, but how does that convert to action in the heat of battle?
The long snapper, thinking about covering the punt instead of his primary job, throws the ball on the ground, and the punter is tackled. Allen just got a cheap possession for his team without ever leaving his position. The punter, ever wary of the heat-seeking missile down the field, decides to kick out of bounds, and shanks a 12-yard punt. Allen just got the field position of a 30-yard return while watching the ball sail into his bench. The protection unit, hammered all week about superb coverage, fails to protect the punter, has the kick blocked. Allen just got his team a touchdown with nary a sweatbead apparent on his forehead.
Sound strange? I have seen all of the above occur because of the powerful presence of a great, and greatly celebrated punt returner. The yards will never show up on ESPN, but they will count just as surely as the runs and passes, and are very often the difference. Have some fun, and see if you can detect mystique yardage when Allen takes the field next time.
||HT: 6-0 | WT: 195 | AGE: 20 | YR: Junior
By Rod Gilmore
Special to ESPN.com
Bill Curry is right about David Allen's impact on a ballgame, what he can do and what he means to Kansas State. The problem is that against Nebraska, Allen will not return a punt for a touchdown. His impact can and will be minimized a great deal by two factors: Nebraska's intention to kick the ball away from him and Allen's injured ankle.
On the other hand, there is no way to limit what Bobby Newcombe can do against Kansas State. He is going to attack the Wildcats from a variety of positions and has the ability to do that. He is a threat as a punt returner. Even though he may not break one for a touchdown, he can help shorten the field. In a defensive struggle like Saturday's game should be, field position becomes the key element in the ballgame.
The second way Newcombe can impact the game is as a receiver from the wingback position. I don't expect Eric Crouch to air the ball out and have Newcombe catch 10 passes. All Newcombe has to do is make one or two catches when the Nebraska option is running. When the 'Huskers have lulled Kansas State into a false sense of security about the ball not being thrown and having to deal with the option, that's when Newcombe will make a play down the field.
He can also make a big play on the reverse and the reverse pass. Remember, Newcombe is a quarterback playing wingback. When you add passing ability into his repertoire, Newcombe will have much more an impact and many more opportunities to have an impact than Allen can have.
I can see Newcombe on the reverse, pulling up to pass and throwing back to Crouch for a big gain. His ability to involve other players and to get himself free and make plays is much more significant than what Allen can do in Saturday's game. That makes Newcombe the better and more versatile weapon.